Local Badgers head home to Lambeau
A life-long Packer fan, Ogunbowale took it all in on the Badgers trip to Green Bay last spring.Image By: Jessi Schoville
Lambeau Field is one entry on a short list of venues every sports fan should watch a game at before they die, preceded only by Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. It’s a bucket list item for rivals and nearly a place of worship for Packers fans, but for the people living in Green Bay, it’s an integral part of the community.
“High school football and pro football, that’s what Green Bay’s about,” freshman lineman Cole Van Lanen said. “Our community is surrounded by football.”
Van Lanen is one of two current Badger players hailing from Green Bay, while the other is sophomore fullback Alec Ingold. Both hail from Bay Port High School, one of Green Bay’s many public high schools, where the pair led the Pirates to the Division 4A state semifinals. While the pair has already played a number of important games in front of their hometown crowd, their next one will be on a different level entirely.
“It’s a pretty special feeling to be able to share that with the community that I’m from. To be able to play with this team is very special; it’s a childhood dream for sure and I just hope I can make the most out of the opportunity and soak up everything that I can,” Ingold said.
Ingold had one particular experience that stuck out to him which would be tempting for any Packers fan: scoring a touchdown and doing a Lambeau Leap.
“If it’s close in the fourth quarter, we’d get a 15-yard penalty, I probably wouldn’t [do a Lambeau Leap]. Any other situation, I would,” Ingold said. “You can’t pass that opportunity up; that would be one of those life moments you’d never be able to get back.”
For Ingold and Van Lanen, the opportunity to play for Wisconsin in the stadium that means so much to their hometown isn’t just a dream come true, but more of an “Inception”-style dream inside of a dream.
“To be on the field as a Badger is a dream come true, and to go on the Packers’ field as a Badger, that would be the top, best dream ever,” Van Lanen said.
Relishing this once-in-a-lifetime moment isn’t something that only pertains to Green Bay natives or Packers fans. Georgia native and professed Mike Vick fan Quintez Cephus echoed similar sentiments, but was quick to stay focused on the real reason the team has this opportunity.
“My mom said going in to get everything out of it that I can, to have fun,” Cephus said. “But at the end of the day, it’s a business trip.”
The business trip mantra is a cliché often used by players and teams in the NFL, but the freshman Cephus is viewing the game at Lambeau less like a business trip and more like an on-the-job learning experience, like a law student looking for an internship with a big law firm.
“To get to talk to one of [the Packers] or any of them would be a humbling experience. We want to be in their shoes one day,” Cephus said. “It’s something that nobody gets to do on a regular game day.”
While Cephus is focusing on meeting NFL players as a way to learn about how to live his dream, some of the other players admitted it would be cool to meet their favorite Packers, like Aaron Rodgers.
“He’s obviously a guy I look up to, one of the best in the National Football League, and that would be awesome to see if we could get a close interaction with a guy like him,” Van Lanen said.
It wouldn’t be unheard of for the Badgers players to have a run-in with the star quarterback; Rodgers celebrated in the locker room with the basketball team after they beat Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen in 2014. Not only that, but Van Lanen and Ingold both talked about how Rodgers and other Packers players would show up to Bay Port’s homecoming and other big games to show some support for local football. Having Rodgers or other Packers players show up to watch a marquee football game is well within the realm of possibility.
While much of this Badger team is young or inexperienced, games in NFL stadiums aren’t new to Wisconsin. Over the past two seasons, they’ve played in the stadiums of the Cowboys, Texans, Colts, Chargers and Buccaneers. Added on to that is the fact that this past spring, the team held a practice in Green Bay and spent the weekend acclimating themselves to the facilities.
These sorts of high-profile games have become commonplace in college football, and serve multiple purposes. Firstly, winning against top-tier opponents in big games is a necessity to make the slim field of the four-team playoff. Secondly, they can be effective recruiting tools. Telling a kid from Louisiana that a game is scheduled against LSU could be a lure, and recruits seeing the Motion W on primetime ESPN does a great deal in marketing the team as competitive.
The game against LSU is just one of the Badgers’ matchups with college football’s all-time greats this season, with games against Ohio State and Michigan looming on the horizon.
“Looking at our schedule this year, it’s challenging, but if you want to do great things, you’re gonna have to beat the best,” Cephus said.
Wisconsin has a tall task ahead when it comes to beating preseason No. 5 LSU, but with everything the team’s Packers fans and non-Packers fans alike have on the line, walking out of Lambeau with a win would be all the sweeter.